Over one lunch

(I wrote this before Christmas, but didn’t get a chance to review it with Mike before now, so, I am posting it before a Christmas post.)

We were just asking some questions during lunch, and suddenly both of us ended up with new roles!  We were trying to find out more about how things work here, and what the plans are for certain responsibilities.  And, boom, Amanda is taking over communication and Mike is stepping into responsibility in the kitchen.  I’m sure none of you are surprised. 🙂

The communication for the base includes students, short-term volunteers, and teams that want to come.  I did this for a llittle while last time we were here, so I am hoping it will be easy to slide into this role.

As for the kitchen, there is a staff member who co-ordinates all the shopping, and a paid cook who cooks lunch and supper Mon-Fri.  Mike will be working mainly with these two to bring some variety and more efficiency to the menu.  (I am laughing as I write that, because variety and efficiency wouldn’t be the top two things I would say if I was naming his strengths – BUT when it comes to working in the kitchen, he definitely has a lot to offer in those areas!)  Right now, there is basically a weekly meal rotation: so Monday lunch is always the same, Thursday supper is always the same, etc.  There are so many tasty and fresh ingredients to use, so it seems a shame to always cook them in the same way!  Part of it is that we are used to much more variety than is usual here – so it is going to be a balancing act: trying to introduce a few new things/cooking things in different ways, while not changing too much, too fast.  (I know, I know, I’ve never before accused Mike of changing too fast – ha!)  People all over the world are very attached to their food, so it is a sensitive area. But Mike is really looking forward to working on this.

(We’ll post soon about our Christmas!)


Cultural Learning: Weddings

December is wedding season here in Rwanda.

One of the Rwandan staff members, Amiss, got married last Saturday!  We were really excited to go to his wedding, since he was someone we spent a lot of time with last year.  As well, he and his new wife (Marieth) will be taking part in the discipleship program Mike & I will be staffing starting in January.

A few weeks ago, another staff member, Odeth, asked me if I wanted to go to the meeting for Amiss’ wedding.  Um… I don’t know?  So I asked her, “Do I want to go to this meeting? What is it?  Will I be the goofy mzungu who doesn’t know what is going on?”  (I always try to find/identify a couple people who are trustworthy with these questions!  Otherwise, we end up going to church with someone, and after 8 hours of sitting in front of the way-too-loud blasting speaker, in the front seats, with a screaming preacher, and getting invited to join the choir for their missions trip to Congo next weekend, we finally have to say, “enough!  We have to go!” So Odeth is someone who is good at giving this kind of advice.)  She told me I should go, and she would translate for me.  So I went.  It was kind of fun – it was in a kind of restaurant/bar, and there were 5 or 6 other similar meetings going on.  Basically, the bride and groom have about 4 meetings each with their friends and family (there were 20 at the meeting I was at) to plan the wedding.  Together, they figure out the budget, offer to pay for certain items, decide together how they can do things differently, and volunteer services for certain things (ie, I’ll borrow my friend’s car and drive you to the reception).  No bridezillas here.  Meetings include a chairman, a treasurer, and a secretary to record minutes.  The person actually getting married doesn’t say much.  This was SO different from how things are done at home, but reminded me of our wedding: we had many meetings leading up to the event: taking minutes and delegating tasks.

On Saturdays, you see vehicles like this all over the city.

On Saturdays, you see vehicles like this all over the city.

Weddings here are somewhat similar to weddings at home (ie, there is a wedding in a church, then photographs, then a reception usually including a meal).  However there are a few extra ceremonies that make for a very long day!  Traditionally, these ceremonies have taken place on different days, but now many young people are trying to do it all in one day.

First is the civil wedding, done in a government hall, often ahead of time.  I think this is the legal ceremony, but no one thinks the couple is married after this service.

Then comes the big day.  After getting up sometime around 4 am to get hair done, etc, the families and friends meet at the home of the bride’s parents/family for Introduction.  This is where the groom comes to “get” the bride, pay the dowry, things like that.  (We didn’t attend this part, but it took 3 hours, so I imagine that there were a lot of speeches, and play-bargaining about whether or not they could actually get married.)

After this ceremony, the couple goes to the Church Wedding.  (Unlike at home, everyone is not waiting for them to enter.  You show up whenever you want.  Our friend, for example, took us an hour after it had begun, so we missed the first half.)

exchanging rings

exchanging rings

Then photos – anyone who wants photos with the bride and groom goes with them.  When photos are finished, they come to the reception.

I felt uncomfortable running up/didn't recognize the appropriate time, so this was the best picture I got of the couple.

I felt uncomfortable running up/didn’t recognize the appropriate time, so this was the best picture I got of the couple.

Holding the glass of red “champagne” to the others mouth to drink made me nervous with all that white – but they didn’t spill!

To begin, someone opens “champagne” and they each hold it to the others’ mouth to drink.  (I was told that this happened about 8-10 times throughout the day!)

Speeches (different from our traditional speeches, though), soda for everyone, the guests presented gifts to the couple, (please understand I am abbreviating this a lot.  It was about 7pm by this time!), then the bride’s family asked permission to return home to spread the good news that their daughter is married.  Traditionally, the groom’s family makes excuses, says things like, “we have many beds, you can stay longer,” and the bride’s family is not allowed to leave until they are given permission.  Ha!  This family granted permission, though.

Traditionally, the bride would then spend several months with her in-laws, just sitting around the house, drinking tea, and generally being catered to.  I had several explanations for this, including: getting to know her place in the new family, being welcomed, having time to make a baby, and also waiting for her parents to save enough money to help the couple set up their own house (by selling maize they have grown, raising and selling a pig or cows, etc).  Then, her parents would come with all the things necessary for setting up a home: sugar, basins, soap, dishes, pots, etc, etc, and then they would have a ceremony where they would drink milk (representing prosperity) and then release their daughter to go out and work.  Relaxing at the in-laws’ is often skipped now, so, immediately after they went to a little side house (where they couple will be staying) and had this ceremony.  The couple then changed clothes and returned, and we all ate supper together.  There was more pouring of drinks, and the couple “feeding” them to each other, more speeches, and then, after a very long day for the couple, they were married!

Learning the traditions and participating in them is great for us to have more insight into the people and culture.

We are amazed again and again at how much time people take for everything; how tiring it can be!  However, we are learning to embrace it, and we are definitely looking forward to spending more time with this couple starting in January!

Ordinary Days

Well, this week has been remarkably ordinary. There have been a lot of small moments that helped remind us that most of the things we want to participate in/accomplish aren’t glamorous in the day-to-day, but the long term outcome is worth it.

We were greatly encouraged by a visitor from Tanzania who, after being here for a few days, remarked on how much it blessed her to just see us working: peeling bananas, doing dishes, etc.

Mainly, I (Amanda) worked on typing and editing a student handbook and helping organize a staff Christmas party; Mike planned a menu and cooked teriyaki stirfry for the party (that made him happy!). We also started kinyarwanda classes.

One of our goals is long-term discipleship: we want to see deep beliefs changed, so that actions change too. One of the things we encounter often is something I call “Christian fatalism.” What I mean is the belief that whatever happens is God’s will (and there is nothing you can do about it). This affects large and small decisions people make. There is something beautiful about being content in your circumstances, but this goes far beyond this to a kind of apathy in life direction and problem solving.

One situation arose in the last few weeks where several buildings were without power for 2 days. This can happen for a few basic reasons. 1.) The power is out, and will be until the power company restores it.  It happens.  2.) The cash you paid up front for the power has run out, and you need to pay more money. (You never know when it could happen. It can happen anytime.)   3.) The breaker has blown and needs to be reset. Now, if its the first one, there is nothing we can do. But if it is the second or third, it should be within our power to fix, right? Well, after investigating, the staff member supposedly responsible for these kinds of situations, doesn’t have a key to the room where the breakers/”cashPower” is… SO: after many conversations with various people, encouragements, waiting, then more conversations and encouragements, the particular staff member was lent a key to the room with permission to copy it!  I kept telling him: “You have to have the authority to carry out the responsibilty you’ve been given.”

And then… it was beautiful!

We had many guests here for a conference that same evening, and the power in most of the buildings went out. Someone was attempting investigation, so I said, “So-and-so has the ability to fix this!” A few seconds later, he went running by, and in about 10 minutes, power was restored! It was so amazing to see his work, conversations, and perseverance immediately rewarded because he was necessary, and capable of fixing the problem. Its a very small thing, and honestly partly selfish on my part (I dislike being without power for no good reason), but it was a small step in helping someone solve a specific problem, and gain confidence for problem solving in the future.

Tomorrow we are going to a wedding, we’ll tell you more about that soon.

Safari, so good!

This last week we were invited out to spend the day adventuring through Akagera National Park, one of the three national parks in Rwanda. The eight of us (five adults and three kids) packed into a jeep and headed out at about 5 in the morning so that we could make it there and back again in a single day.

The weather was beautiful, the park was welcoming, and though we were warned about the possibility of seeing little, we bore witness to a multitude of wild animals!

To start our excursion, we found several kinds of birds some of which looked like storks, crested cranes, some tiny yellow swallow-like ones that built igloo shaped nests in the trees, and what we thought were guinea fowl.

baboons together

 Over the course of the day we also spotted many different kinds of monkeys and baboons, which were often crossing the road or climbing nearby trees.


hippopotamus’ (hippopotami??) were favourites for new and unusual sightings! We stopped at a lake and saw about half a dozen hippotpotamus’ near/on the shore. They backed into the water as we approached (in the jeep of course) and gave us a bit of a show what with yawning wide and snorting water at each other.

Swimming in the same lake as the hippos we saw some crocodiles. Pretty cool looking but also very evidently dangerous. giraffe sideways close

Drove into a basin where a herd (a tower?, a stretch?) of giraffes were chomping away on some of the trees. Unbelievable how vivid the dark splotches showed on their yellow/orange hides. And they really are as tall as they seem in children’s stories… I never would have expected to see so many giants in one place!!


We drove through much forested area where we found herds of impala, zebras, deer, kudu, and, at the top of the list, elephants. We were driving down the trail and to our left we spotted a bull elephant maybe three jeep lengths away.

As we stopped to admire it, it became a little curious about us and then aggressive, as he began to stomp and move towards us. What we didn’t know was that on our right was the rest of his herd and as we had arrived in between them, the bull got mad. Since we decided it about time to continue on we scooted up the path until we discovered the herd of elephants enjoying dust baths in the trees. The bull continued to follow us up the dirt road toward his herd but was soon convinced we weren’t a threat and left us to our own devices.

The rain picked up as we neared the end of our adventures through the park and we were all glad for four-wheel drive. On our way out, as the clay-dense road turned slowly to heavy mud, we glimpsed a herd of zebra off in the trees. It was an incredible end to a day filled with the testament to God’s creative beauty and order.